Aging: Well-Being Improves As People Get Older, Despite Physical Or Cognitive Decline, Study Says
Some welcome news for those of us who are aging, and know it. Today there are about 5 million Canadians, and about 40 million Americans, over the age of 65. The fastest-growing segments of the population are those over 60. Yet aging continues to be discussed as a period of declining physical and cognitive skills. However, according to a recent study, as reported in The Huffington Post, this negative view of aging contrasts with results of comprehensive research involving more than 1,000 older adults showing that people actually enjoy greater well-being as they age.
"It was clear to us that, even in the midst of physical or cognitive decline, individuals in our study reported feeling that their well-being had improved with age," said principal investigator Dilip V. Jeste, MD, director of UC San Diego's Stein Institute for Research on Aging, and the current President of the American Psychiatric Association (which was not involved in this study).
"But what was unexpected was that the older , and the current President of the American Psychiatric Association (which was not involved in this study).
"But what was unexpected was that the older adults had higher scores on self-rated successful aging. Thus, physical health and perception of one's successful aging went in opposite directions," Jeste added. "In other words, factors other than physical health seemed to contribute significantly to subjective success in aging. These factors were psychological -- i.e. resilience and absence of depression."
Jeste suggests there's a take-away message for clinicians, which is that being more optimistic in the care of seniors may help reduce societal ageism. "There is considerable discussion In public forums about the financial drain on the society due to rising costs of healthcare for older adults -- what some people disparagingly label the 'silver tsunami.' But, successfully aging older adults can be a great resource for younger generations," he said.
The findings also point to a key role for psychiatry in enhancing successful aging in older adults. "Perfect physical health is neither necessary nor sufficient," Jeste said. "There is potential for enhancing successful aging by fostering resilience and treating or preventing depression."
Photo and story courtesy of The Huffington Post